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Poland shut down by Pirates

Staff photo / Brad Emerine Ariana Daniels, right, of Poland looks for driving room against Perry’s Elle Infalvi during the Bulldogs’ 43-23 loss in a Division II regional semifinal.

BARBERTON — There was no drama in the Division II regional semifinal Tuesday night, unfortunately for the Poland girls basketball team.

After needing overtime to beat West Geauga, 78-67, in a district semifinal, and hanging on to edge Marlington, 40-38, in a district final when the Dukes’ final 3-point shot attempt bounded off the back rim, the Bulldogs never got on track in a 43-23 loss to Perry on Barberton’s Greynolds Floor in the “Purple Palace.”

“It’s been years since we’ve had a game like that,” said coach Nick Blanch, whose team finished 22-3. “But we’re going to remember all the great things this group did together.”

The district championship was the program’s fifth. The seniors reached a regional final in 2019 before falling to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.

“We won two close, exciting ones just to get to this point,” Blanch said. “We just were out of sorts on the big stage tonight. It is what it is. We’re grateful to even have a season, let alone play 25 games. It was a ticking time bomb and we made it all the way through to the end. I’m extremely proud of our three seniors — Ella Harrell, Jackie Grisdale and Lizzy Herdman. They’re three great, incredible captains who guided us through an offseason around virtual media.

“When we took them out in the final two minutes, they stood and they cheered for their teammates after the game was really over and their careers were over. That’s the legacy they leave. They were great teammates.”

Perry scored the game’s first four points before Poland got on the scoreboard with a Grisdale steal and layup. Those were the only points of the game for Grisdale, Poland’s all-time leading scorer who averaged 20 points per contest this season.

The Pirates (22-4) clamped down on her and also forced numerous turnovers early as Poland tried to find open shooters.

“We just never settled down,” Blanch said. “We had the fumbles early and just never got comfortable.”

It was 9-4 after one period and Perry extended the margin to 17-9 at halftime. The score was 31-12 through three periods. The Pirates had their biggest cushion at 41-14 with 2:40 left in the contest.

Perry, which is making its third consecutive regional appearance, lost in the semifinals the past two seasons before reaching the program’s first regional final.

Madyson Hacking, the Pirates’ all-time leading scorer who made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from near halfcourt for a 41-40 win over Salem in a district final, led Perry with 15 points and seven rebounds. Elle Infalvi and Marcela Rodriguez scored 10 apiece.

Freshman Mary Brant led the Bulldogs with six points. Connie Cougras had four points, as did Katie McDonald who came off the bench in the final two minutes.

“This isn’t going to detract from our season, nor our seniors,” Blanch said. “You go 22-3 and create great memories. That’s what I’ll remember. One bad game doesn’t deflect from what these girls have accomplished.”

Perry will play Shaker Heights Laurel at 7 p.m. Friday at Barberton with a state berth on the line. The Gators improved to 20-4 with a 60-40 win over Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in the other semifinal Wednesday.

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